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Suppose that an early career researcher received a job offer from a country that the researcher really doesn't want to go to, because of political or other personal reasons (concern for safety, homophobia, etc.) Would researchers understand that researcher's decision? Would the researcher have to go in order to continue their career?

Would it look bad if letters of recommendation said, "He/she got an offer in _, but turned it down. So he/she is applying again."?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Jul 14 at 14:28
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    It might depend on why the researcher applied for a job in a country they had no intention to move to. (Did the factors leading to the rejection only come to light after they applied and interviewed?) (This seems to be alluded to in some comments moved to chat, but I think it's worth emphasizing in the question what the exact situation is.)
    – chepner
    Jul 14 at 16:44
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I’m not sure I understand your question. People turn down offers all the time (even if they don’t have a competing offer) for all kinds of perfectly valid personal reasons.

The city is not to their liking in this or that way, the university does not offer sufficient spousal or child support, the cost of housing or living is too high, the commute is too long or the campus is difficult to reach… whatever: all valid reasons that are difficult to establish until you have an actual offer in hand and have visited the place.

You might care to contact your referees and explain why you did not take the offer (they might not even know you got an offer), and you might not want to do this serially, but otherwise why would a referee even discuss this in a letter? After all, they are supposed to support you, not torpedo you applications.

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Would researchers understand that researcher's decision?

You seem to be imagining the other researchers as being much more interested in the personal life and preferences of someone they don’t know than they actually are. In truth, the researchers would not “understand”, simply because they have no particular interest in why someone chooses to go or not to go to some city/country/university. They won’t spend any time even thinking about it. It is universally understood that people have personal preferences and that moving to another geographical location is a big decision that impacts all aspects of the person’s life. Beyond that, no one cares.

Would the researcher have to go in order to continue their career?

Absolutely not. Of course, if they don’t go, they are passing over a professional opportunity. There is no guarantee that an equally good one will present itself in the next application round. But I have a feeling the researcher has already considered this aspect of the situation…

Would it look bad if letters of recommendation said, "He/she got an offer in _, but turned it down. So he/she is applying again."?

No sensible person would ever think of writing such a thing in a letter of recommendation. It is a completely irrelevant fact that has no bearing on the candidate’s application or on any kind of information a letter of recommendation is traditionally expected to provide.

In the event that someone does write such a thing in a letter, no sensible person would find such a fact relevant to the strength of the application or would be inclined to let it influence their judgment.

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    That's good to know. I was worried about being negatively judged.
    – Mehta
    Jul 12 at 17:27
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This would generally be understood.

I am not sure why the declined offer would be a major plot point in a recommendation letter (but then academics write all sorts of irrelevant stuff in such letters).

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You wrote in a comment:

I was worried about being negatively judged.

Let them judge you!

If something is important to you, if you base life changing decisions on it and if it bothers some people, then you can use it as a very reliable indicator that you would not want to work with them.

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